Philosophy and principles
F2FE can help in building effective, farmer-centred extension systems and empowering farmers as change agents for improving livelihoods in their communities. Key principles include:
- Farmers and local institutions (e.g. producer organisations or village leaders) should play a key role in selecting farmer-trainers and monitoring and evaluating them. This helps make the programmes more account- able to the community or groups that they serve.
- Farmer-trainers are ‘of the community’; they communicate in local languages and are more sensitive to local cultures, mannerisms, farming practices, and farmers’ needs. Farmer-trainers should be selected on the basis of their skills and interest in sharing information, not just on their farming expertise.
- Farmer-trainers need strong linkages with and support from development agents (whether government, non- government organisation (NGO), or private), the people who train and backstop them. Farmer-trainers generally serve as a complement to existing extension systems, rather than being a substitute for them.
- Facilitating organisations and local institutions need to be proactive in ensuring that women as well as men become farmer-trainers.
- Simple and appropriate reference materials should be made available to the farmer-trainers.
In some cases, F2FE is simply an arm of a top-down technology transfer model, in which communication is one-way, from extension staff to farmer-trainers to farmers. Reorienting such programmes to use a more demand-driven, participatory model is something that must be done by programme designers and managers.
The first step in implementation is to assess whether the F2FE approach is appropriate for the farmers and region in question. A good starting point is to discuss with local authorities and farmers to find out about their interest in testing the approach.
The next step is to select farmer-trainers. Frequently, extension services and communities (i.e. producer organisations or local authorities) select farmer-trainers together. In other cases, only the extension service or the community selects them. A common procedure is for extension services to agree on criteria with community representatives and then the representatives use the criteria to select the farmer-trainers. Criteria vary but often include being able to read and write in a language commonly used by the farmers, having a good reputation, interest and skill in sharing information, farming skills, and being a full-time resident in the community.
Farmer-trainers train farmers on a wide range of practices covering livestock, crops, agroforestry, and fisheries. Roles and responsibilities of farmer-trainers vary but the most frequently mentioned ones include training, monitoring/ following up, advising, conducting demonstrations, organising meetings, and acting as liaison between farmers and development agents. Farmer-trainers often serve the farmer group to which they belong and train others outside the group as well. In Malawi, extension workers typically supervise about 15 farmer-trainers each, who each train about 60 farmers.
Many organisations compensate farmer-trainers for some expenses, such as transportation or airtime for mobile phones. Others do not. Only a few organisations pay farmer-trainers salaries or allowances, and these are typically much less than what an extension agent earns. Survey results from Cameroon, Kenya, and Malawi showed that all of the organisations paying farmers’ salaries or allowances were NGOs or farmer organisations. (5)
Box 1: Governmends paying Farmer-trainers: the way of the future?
In parts of Peru, F2FE has become the main delivery vehicle for extension. Peru’s Yachachi (from quechau for ‘one who teaches’) programme reaches 90,000 of the country’s poorest Andean farmers. In addition to being locally recruited and selected, these F2FE trainers are paid by the government via community-awarded innovation funds (no external funding is involved). They receive the equivalent of US$340 per month for four days a week, which is 67% of an extension technician’s salary). Women make up 25% of the 2,500 Yachichis. Training activities focus on a wide range of crop, livestock, and agroforestry practices. Importantly, the national agricultural research and innovation institute (INIA) and SENASA, the national phyto-sanitary service, provide ongoing training and support to Yachachis.